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Posts Tagged ‘short stories’


As of yesterday, I have two new stories out: my anthropological novelette “La Molejera” (as in, it’s literally about an anthropologist) and my folkloric short story “This is How.”

I need to talk about that second one a bit, because it’s a huge milestone for me. You see, I sent my first story to Strange Horizons in <checks records> May of 2002. That isn’t a typo; I didn’t mean 2012. 2002. Seventeen years ago. In that time, I have sent them forty-five other stories — but the truth is that the overlap in the Venn diagram of “the kind of thing I write” and “the kind of thing SH publishes” is pretty narrow. I kept trying, because I really admire them and wanted to see my name listed among the people they’ve published, and a few of my submissions came close, but this one was a white whale for me. It was entirely possible that I would never actually crack it.

Until a couple of months ago, when we had half a dozen friends over for a movie marathon and I suddenly hit the pause button to say, in a voice entirely too calm for what was going on inside my head, “I just sold a story to Strange Horizons.”

It’s very brief — less than two thousand words. It’s much more elliptical and poetic than most of what I write, which I’m sure is part of why they bought it and not the previous forty-five attempts. It has metaphorical depth I didn’t notice until a couple of weeks ago. (It also has content warnings, which you should click on if you’re concerned.) And you can read it online for free, or listen to the audio version by Anaea Lay.

Also? It has art.

Squishy metrics

Last year I set myself a goal of writing five non-L5R short stories — not counting the L5R ones because, those being work-for-hire, I can’t submit them to short story markets or collect them into ebooks or anything like that. For several years I’d been in a trough where I either wrote no short stories at all (2016) or none that weren’t solicited for anthologies (2017), so I was getting no fresh material into the pipeline, and I wanted to fix that.

Well, I didn’t quite make it last year; I only managed five. (Despite a heroic effort to finish one more on the flight home the day before New Year’s. It stalled out partway through, and still hasn’t come unstuck.) This year there was the temptation to try to make up for that, but I know that’s a foolish approach; I set my goal at six again.

But six is . . . a much fuzzier number than you might think.

In March I wrote a piece of flash fiction, my first in more than a decade. Does that count as one of the six? The honest answer to that is “if I don’t write more than five other things this year, yes, sort of; if I do, then no.” It absolutely counts as A Thing I Can Send Out, but it’s so brief — less than 500 words — that it’s hard to feel like I’ve accomplished much in writing it. Then in July I finished a novelette — which would definitely count, being longer than a short story, except that it’s part of a larger project and not something I’m going to be able to submit on its own to various markets. So while it’s A Thing I’ve Written, it doesn’t actually address the lack I was aiming for. And later that month I wrote another piece of flash fiction. Where did the count stand? And is any of this making up for last year’s shortfall?

The sensible answer is that last year is last year and the count for this year stands at whatever I’ve written, nature of the pieces included. Which as of completing another piece last night is five short stories, two flash stories, and the novelette. Does that hit the magic number of six? Yes and no. I don’t know. It’s complicated.

Really, though, that’s not the question. The question is, “can I write another short story before the end of the year?” And I think the answer to that is “yes.” I seem to have rediscovered the short fiction gear in my brain, after misplacing it for quite a while. I’ve got several ideas that might be about ready to go, and I have more than three months in which to prod one of them to the finish line.

And if I manage that well before the end of the year . . . then I might just write seven. Or eight. Who knows where the madness will end.

It all started with a Tumblr post . . .

A little over year ago, I linked to a Tumblr conversation my husband had brought to my attention, and noted that debates of that kind are probably a regular feature of Lady Trent’s world, where there are a) dragons and b) a religion based on Judaism. And I said something about wishing I was conversant enough with Judaism to write a short story that would riff on that general idea — maybe not candles on Shabbat, but the intersection of dragons + religion.

A little over a year later, and thanks to the help of Noah Beit-Aharon in particular, I sold “On the Impurity of Dragon-kind” to Uncanny Magazine.

It will be out later this year, probably in their August issue, so as to coincide with the release of Turning Darkness Into Light. And because I must always find new forms of nerdery to explore with this series, the story takes the form of Isabella’s son Jake delivering a dvar Torah as part of his (somewhat belated) bar mitzvah. Whether I wind up writing the other “dragons + Judaism” story idea I had while trying to work this one out, we will see . . .

Double release day!

I’m having nostalgic memories of when my first novel was released, thirteen years ago . . . on April Fool’s Day. (Yes, I spent rather a lot of time persuading myself that no, my editor wasn’t going to say “haha, fooled you!” and then the book wouldn’t come out.) This year I’m managing to dodge that day — which is good, because I have not one but two things out!

The first is New Worlds, Year Two: More Essays on the Art of Worldbuuilding, which you can get at Book View Cafe — i.e. direct from the publisher, and it’s a little bittersweet, because Vonda beta-read this for me — or Amazon US or UK, Barnes and Noble, Google Play, iTunes, Kobo, and Indigo. And if that’s not enough anthropological and worldbuilding goodness for you, there’s always New Worlds, Year One: A Writer’s Guide to the Art of Worldbuilding, the collection from the first year of the New Worlds Patreon.

The second thing out today is my short story “Vīs Dēlendī” at Uncanny Magazine. Their Kickstarter backers got this a while ago, and half of the contents went live earlier, but as of today the entire issue is available for free online: fiction, poetry, articles, and interviews. One (1) Internet Cookie to anyone who can identify the main folksong that inspired this story; fifty (50) Internet Cookies to anybody who can identify the other folksong that contributed to it, without which this refused to cohere into an actual story. (Offer null and void after the podcast interview with me goes live, wherein I talk about both songs.)

No joke! Go forth and enjoy!

Get yer fairy tales on!

This missed posting for some reason, and I only just now noticed. But there is still time to pre-order!


About a year ago, I discovered that February 26th is National Tell a Fairy Tale Day.

Now, like many authors with an interest in folklore, I’ve tackled fairy tales before. I have a whole collection of them, Monstrous Beauty. But that represents only one part of my fairy tale ouevre — the part that’s the most horror-tinged. I have others.

And I thought, why not do something with those?

This happened about a year ago, so it was far too late to do anything for that year’s National Tell a Fairy Tale Day. But I looked ahead to 2019, and discovered that this year, February 26th would be a Tuesday — which is, traditionally, the day of the week when new books get released.


Ladies, gentlemen, and other civilized people, I give you Never After: Thirteen Twists on Familiar Tales. Available for pre-order now; due to be released — of course — two weeks days from now. It’s a tiny little thing; every one of those thirteen stories is flash-length, under 500 words, and two of them are about 100 words apiece, which is why the collection is priced at a mere $0.99 (or whatever that turns into in your local currency). You can pick up both that and Monstrous Beauty for two bucks, and have twenty fairy tales of variously warped sorts — the ones in Never After are not as dark as the ones in Monstrous Beauty, but I wouldn’t call them sweet and innocent, either . . .

Forget perfect princesses, handsome princes, and “happily ever after.” In this collection of thirteen flash-length fairy tale retellings, award-winning author Marie Brennan introduces you to a world of manipulative mirrors, treacherous pigs, and candy houses that will eat you right up. Each one is a subversive little gem, guaranteed to shock the Brothers Grimm.

Pre-order now!

It Happened at the Ball!

My fellow Book View Cafe author Sherwood Smith has organized a new anthology:


The pleasure of your company is requested.

Graceful feet tracing courtly steps.
Eyes in jeweled masks meeting across a room of twirling dancers.
Gloved hands touching fleetingly–or gripping swords . . .

Anything can happen at a ball.

You are invited to enjoy stories of fancy and fantasy from thirteen authors, framed in the splendor and elegance of a ballroom. Be it at a house party for diplomats and thieves, or Almacks in a side-universe in which the Patronesses have magic, or a medieval festival just after the plague years . . .

Prepare to be swept into the enchantment of the dance!

Featuring stories from myself, Marissa Doyle, Sara Stamey, Charlotte Gumanaam, Irene Radford, Gillian Polack, Deborah J. Ross, Francesca Forrest, Lynne April Brown, P.G. Nagle, Brenda Clough, Layla Lawlor, and Sherwood Smith herself. My contribution is a reprint of “The Şiret Mask.” You can pick up the ebook now from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, or Apple Books, or get it in trade paperback instead!

Story notes

Here’s a thing I’m a little proud of.

Reviews for Maps to Nowhere and Ars Historica have commented on my approach to story notes — not just the content thereof, but the way I put them into the book.

This was an idea I had when I published Monstrous Beauty a few years ago — a way to accommodate the different opinions on and approaches to short stories and their associated notes. It only works in ebook; in fact, it leverages the advantages of the form.

I put all the story notes at the end of the book, so you can ignore them if you want to, jump to them using the ebook’s table of contents if you like to read them first, or encounter them in due course after you’re done with everything else. But the real advantage comes if you’re the sort of person who likes to read the notes immediately before of after the story. (I’ll be honest; I don’t understand reading the notes first. But some people do, and who am I to tell them they’re having the wrong kind of fun.) At the end of each piece I put a link to the notes — and not one of those tiny footnote links that are almost impossible to tap, either, but a nice big line of text. That takes you to the relevant section at the end of the book . . . and then, when you reach the end of a given note, you have two links: “Return to story” or “Read next story.” So if you haven’t read it yet or you want to look back at it in light of what the notes have said, you can easily do that, without having to pull up the table of contents. And if you want to continue onward, you can do that, too.

It’s a minor thing overall — a little bit of convenience in navigation. But judging by the numbers of reviews I’ve seen that mention the approach to notes and linkage as a positive aspect, it works exactly as well as I hoped it would. And that pleases me.

Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Short Fiction

People sometimes say a writer is supposed to love all their literary children equally, but the truth is that we’re inevitably more proud of some stories than others. Among the fifty or so short stories I’ve sold, one of my favorites is “Daughter of Necessity,” which (as you can see at that link) got utterly gorgeous artwork from the folks at — gorgeous enough that a print hangs at the top of the staircase down to our den.

It’s been reprinted twice, once in the 2014 anthology, and once in the Book View Cafe collection Nevertheless, She Persisted (for which we’ll be doing an event at Borderlands Books on February 10th — look for more details on that soon!) And now it’s going to be reprinted again, in another title, Worlds Seen in Passing: Ten Years of Short Fiction. I’m more pleased than I can say that with ten years of short fiction to choose from — including award winners — “Daughter of Necessity” made the cut as one of the forty tales they’ll be including in this lovely hardcover volume. Check out that link for the full Table of Contents and options for pre-ordering! It will be out in September of this year, for the tenth anniversary of the site.

This short story GOES UP TO ELEVEN

I recently finished my first short story of the year, which doesn’t yet have a title I am satisfied with, but which is destined for publication in Kaiju Rising: Age of Monsters II, once the Kickstarter behind that link successfully funds. (It’s a quarter of the way there after one day, so odds are good.)

Drafting the story was interesting, because it’s been a while since I wrote something where my constant reminder to myself was GO BIGGER. In some ways “The Şiret Mask” last year, I suppose, but that was more caper-style ridiculousness. When it comes to sheer world-wrecking destruction, I think I have to go all the way back to In Ashes Lie, with its Great Fire and the battle between Prigurd and the Dragon in St. Paul’s Cathedral. But when the theme of your antho is kaiju, well, sheer world-wrecking destruction is very nearly an entry requirement.

(“Very nearly” because you could probably write a really interesting story about kaiju not trashing cities — something much quieter and more personal — and in fact I hope somebody in the lineup for this anthology does so. But that story is not my story.)

As for my story: it’s riffing off the microsetting I wrote for Tiny Frontiers: Mecha and Monsters, which was called “The Grand Prize,” and is basically what happens when somebody hands me the prompt “kaiju and mecha” and my brain immediately pairs that with high school science fairs. The short story takes place at the Twentieth Annual Metzger-Patel Genius Prize tournament, and that’s all I’ll say right now — except to remind you that if you want to read a story about teenaged robotics and bioengineering competitions gone massively overboard, you should back the Kickstarter today!